Persecution forced the first century believers to carry the gospel beyond Jerusalem. I pray we won't be forced to expand the Kingdom the same way.
And Saul was consenting unto his death. And at that time there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judaea and Samaria, except the apostles (Acts 8:1).
Therefore they that were scattered abroad went every where preaching the word (Acts 8:4).
This past week my wife and I had a gathering at our home where we encouraged those, who were developing similar gatherings in their homes. Our fellowship is transitioning from a traditional ‘church’ system, into a network of house gatherings. In the midst of this, our understanding of ekklesia is maturing.
Transitioning from an institutional church model into a network of house gatherings isn’t as easy as some may believe. It requires teaching, prayer, work, and more teaching, prayer and work.
In the process, you must be willing to endure and learn how to overcome a seemingly endless barrage of disappointments, discouragements and downright opposition. But if God has given you clear marching orders, then victory is assured if you don’t give up. Trust me, I know, because we are making the transition, but I can honestly say that we are enjoying the journey.
...the church will be entirely different in values and structure within the next ten years
In chapter three of my book, Leaving Church Becoming Ekklesia, I write that the church as we know it is in transition. I believe the church will be entirely different in values and structure within the next ten years.
It took persecution for the believers to carry the gospel beyond the limits of Jerusalem. Right now we have a window of opportunity to make this transition without major interference. I try not to be a gloom and doom writer, but I would be remiss if I did not share what I believe we will face in the future. I believe those who prepare themselves for what is coming will generally be unscathed. Below, I have listed nine areas that will help us to re-evaluate what we do.
1. There will be increased communication to the masses through electronic media.
With the click of a mouse, you can find anything that you want to support what you believe. This barrage of information will challenge doctrinal stances of many church systems.
For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears (2 Timothy 4:3).
This is evident more now than it ever has been. People are being lured into ‘feel good’ doctrines of devils that appease the soul and flesh, but destroys the spirit. Religious and denominational systems are finding it hard to keep up. People are leaving to pursue what they consider more progres-
sive theology’. The challenge to the Body of Christ is to maintain a holy standard found solely in Jesus Christ.
2. Loyalty to denominational systems will diminish. There was a time when people held their denominational affiliation as a badge of honor. However, as people are becoming more exposed to religious teachings through television and the internet, the loyalty to denominational structures will diminish.
The ‘non-denominational’ title has become much more accepted in mainstream Christianity. Moreover, according to a report by the Pew Forum in 2012, an increasing number of people declare they have no religious affiliation at all. Ironically, many of these people consider themselves spiritual. Another study found more Christians are leaving ‘church systems’ but not their faith and relationship with Christ.
The pressure on existing church systems is to find innovative ways to maintain their organization. Unfortunately, some of these cross the line into secular philosophies.
3. Time constraints will force church systems to re-evaluate when and how to meet
Sunday morning is the magic hour for the majority of Christians. Unfortunately, studies are showing that fewer people are getting up on Sunday to go to church. Instead, they are going to a myriad of programs, events and activities. No longer are people feeling guilty for doing other things on Sunday mornings. To compete, churches are resorting to event and entertainment based services to try and draw people into their buildings. This is creating a Christian populace who are soulishly entertained, but spiritually anemic.
4. The age demographic of the church will change dramatically. The millennials and Generation Xers are proving that the current church system has little or no appeal to them. It is more and more common to meet 18 to 30 year old’s who have never set foot in a church building. This demographic wants authenticity. This is the age group that has the power to carry the message of the Kingdom with more zeal and power than those of us who fit the category of baby boomers.
It was this age group that made up the majority of the twelve disciples of Jesus. Yet it is this age demographic we are at the most risk of losing. For this group, you don’t have to dumb down the gospel. You simply need to teach it to them and turn them loose to live it out on the streets.
5. Iconic national church leaders will be disappearing
I believe the hierarchal church system gave birth to the iconic church leaders. These greater than life individuals have massive followings, as people chase after their variety of gospel. They have become untouchable, godlike characters who usually go uncorrected in doctrinal error. They justify the indulgences of the flesh as God’s blessings. They often preach psycho-theological messages that lack the ability to produce real transformation in the lives of sinners. In fact, some who follow them are just a comfortable in their sin, as they were before they joined them.
Age and unfortunately scandals are gradually eliminating some of these individuals. Over the last few years, I have watched as embarrassing battles have broken out over who has the right to take over a mega-church leaders position after their death. We all know of scandals that have destroyed some national and regional leaders, and their ministries. I don’t believe these individuals will be replaced. The Lord’s focus is on the Body of Believers doing the work of ministry.
6. Giving habits will change. You cannot find ‘Building Funds’ in the New Testament. Yet, about 22% of money donated goes to maintain and expand buildings. You have to twist scripture to justify the salary system found in most churches. But nearly 50% of church budgets go for salaries. The maintenance of programs and events absorb a large portion of many ‘church’ budgets. This equates to about 15% of money that is donated.
Mission budgets, specifically foreign missions, are set up to give people the sense that their giving is helping the less fortunate. However, one report I read stated that Protestants give an average of two cents to missions for every dollar donated. You can easily check this out for yourself. Here is one link. http://www.messagemissions.com/mission-statistics/
The ‘bottom line’ in most church budgets is being challenged. People are becoming more disillusioned with giving to maintain a system, rather than meet legitimate needs in their community and the world. I believe these giving patterns will begin to fuel the coming reformation wherein the saints will be released to do the work of ministry (Ephesians 4:11-12).
7. The ‘institutional church’ will face increasing hostility from government sponsored laws.
The 501c3 status of the church will be greatly curtailed or eliminated in the coming years. The church system as we know it has not positioned itself to be a voice of the Kingdom. I am saddened by church leaders who follow political rhetoric more than Christ. Of course they claim Christ endorses there position, but the reality is that Jesus Christ will not allow Himself to be pigeon holed into a particular political party. Jesus is not and will never be Republican or Democrat, or any other political party. He is King. He rules a kingdom that is greater than all earthly systems (Daniel 7:14).
Because the church has played footsies with world systems, there are emerging world entities who see no problem in attempting to eliminate the church in all spheres of society. It’s not because the church has had such a righteous voice, but rather because it has made itself irrelevant by trying to fit into a world that is hostile to anything of God.
The laws of the land will arise to silence the institution, but the voice of the Kingdom will arise through those who can’t be swayed by worldly threats (Acts 4:19; Hebrews 13:6)
8. New groups will arise that will challenge the churches position on social matters.
Report after report has shown that the primary reason young people join gangs is for a sense of identity and family. Right, wrong or indifferent, gangs meet a need that causes a person to disregard everything else in order to belong. Why do raise this example? Because like gangs, known for being outside of the law, they still are able to draw young people out of society. Likewise, there are ungodly groups (pagans, cult religions, new age practitioners), who are providing responses to needs in some communities. The result is that people are attracted to those who are meeting their heart felt needs.
Jesus said that our righteousness must exceed the righteousness of the Pharisees (Matthew 5:20). The Pharisees had some level of recognizable righteousness, but it did not meet the true needs of the people. As believers, we must minister to the total need of mankind – in body, soul and spirit. We must meet natural needs without judgment. We must walk with those in need of emotional healing stemming from the hurts and rejection of the world. And we must maintain a redemptive flow with everything we do.
9. There will be blending of Christian and worldly concepts
In recent years there has been collaborations of Christian and secular artist on the music projects. Of course, the Christians involved are proclaiming this will reach more souls. As a Christian and a musician, I respectfully disagree. This practice will usher in worldly philosophies similar to the pagan infiltration in the fourth century..
As a musician, I know that these collaborations are motivated by the financial bottom line. Everybody is getting paid. The artists may be friends, but believe me, before they sing a note, everyone involved will know how much they are getting paid for the deal. That the reality.
As a Christian, I have four things that concern me. First, I have yet to see any of the secular artist make a confession of Jesus Christ as their Lord - then submit themselves to being discipled - and make an effort to live a life that exemplify repentance (Matthew 3:8; 2Corinthians 7:10). Instead, they continue to produce music that deifies sex, immorality, drugs and violence, and should they win a Grammy for it, they “thank the man upstairs” for his blessings. They continue to imply that God blesses sin.
Second, the Christian artist loses their witness before the world. Yes, they may remain popular in Christian circles, but they become just another artist to the world. Here’s a thought. Why don’t some of these Christian artist go on tour with the secular artist, where they not only perform, but minister Jesus Christ to those in attendance.
Third, it sends a wrong image of righteousness. This is my greatest concern. It causes people to believe that their favorite rap artist, with all their vulgarity, is now a Christian simply because they recorded with a Christian artist. It creates the ‘I’m okay’ mindset that perverts the gospel. The devil will do anything he can to diminish, invalidate and eliminate the Gospel of Jesus Christ and His Kingdom in the earth. We play right into his hands when we align with ungodly systems.
Fourth, this has led to unrighteous music being added to worship. I am not talking about styles of music, but rather actual secular lyrics being used as worship. Using the excuse that it draws more people is an affront to the Lord Jesus who said if He was lifted up, all men would be drawn to him (John 12:32)
What Does All This Mean?
I don’t want to paint a gloomy picture and leave it there. However, you cannot know where you are going until you first know where you are. That's why these nine trends that will cause the chuch to change are important. This is the day of the saints. It is the heart of the Lord is to release millions of believers into the earth, to impact every sphere of human existence. This will usher in the shift to becoming the ekklesia.
Jesus gave His ekklesia kingdom authority to bind and lose according to the directives of the Kingdom of Heaven. God wants to use you in this critical season. My prayer is that this post will encourage those of you who are pursuing what I believe is an accurate New Testament model necessary for us to impact the world.
I close by making it clear that I love the Body of Christ. I believe there is a glorious future ahead, and I pray that you are ready for the journey! Are you? TLK
Tim Kurtz is the founder of The Ekklesia Center developed to help believers desiring to pursue New Testament values and structure. He teaches extensively on what the impact the mistranslation of the Greek word ekklesia to the English word church has had on the Body of Christ. He has served in numerous capacities in the 'church system' including being a Pastor for over 25 years. He is the author of several books and the primary contributor to the EKKLESIAInsights Blog. Tim is also the host of Good Morning Ekklesia, broadcast live on Facebook. In these daily Study Starters he provides key information that believers can use to study ekklesia deeper. He and his wife Carolyn have been married 46 years and live in Michigan. They have two adult children, eight grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.